We've been playing around with the New Xbox Experience for the Xbox 360 for a while now, testing out the "Blades" interface replacement that goes live Nov. 19 to every console owner. In short, the NXE is an impressive improvement, removing much of the unnecessary visual clutter that was present in the Xbox 360's original interface. It's faster, easier on the eyes and better organised — a good thing, considering the update is mandatory.
After updating to the New Xbox Experience, we were presented with an intro video welcoming us to the change that was impressively rendered, but of highly questionable worth. It did little to inform us about the updated interface, but as eye candy it was cute.
We moved on to Avatar creation, also a mandatory step.
The Xbox 360 will greet you with ten pre-made Avatars of both sexes that you can choose from. If you don't see one you like, hit X to randomise another set of ten.
We opted to customise one that looked a little more personal. That proved to be a bit of a challenge, as capturing your own look is more difficult than we had expected. Avatars are of higher fidelity than their Mii predecessors, making a recognisable caricature of yourself difficult.
You'll be able to customise your Avatar's hair, eyes, eyebrows, nose, ears, mouth, chin, body type and skin colour. You'll also be able to add freckles, beauty marks and, curiously, face paint in camo, skull or tiger patterns. There are some very odd choices here. For instance, the Avatar will burp when the right analogue stick is pressed in. Huh?
You'll also be able to pick out your Avatar's clothes, but from a frustratingly limited set. There's plenty of Xbox-themed stuff to choose from, like boots, jerseys, tees and sneakers, but you aren't given the option to modify colours, sizes or decals. In the end, the clothing and body choices we had made resulted in a very hate-worthy Avatar. It reflected the worst of our real-life style. (We later opted to drop recreating our own look and clothing. It was simply too hard to look at.)
You can then save your Avatar, as well as a few sets of outfits, to the hard drive. You then have the option to take a photo of your virtual self and use it as your Gamer Picture, should you choose to do so.
Fortunately, the method for doing all this stuff is mostly straightforward, even if the Avatar customisation interface isn't as elegant as the rest of the NXE.
Should you ever want to change your Avatar, you can do so under the My Xbox series of folders. This is where you'll view your music, photo, and video libraries, alter your profile and system settings, or view content from a Windows Media Center.
You'll also play and install disc-based games from the My Xbox area. You'll also be able to view game details, Achievements and see what Xbox Live Marketplace content is available for the in-drive disc. We installed Dead Space to the hard drive in just about 10 minutes, deleted it in a few seconds.
Overall, we're impressed by our first spin through the New Xbox Experience, even if Avatars feel limited and awkward, more of an excuse for microtransaction relief than a new exciting feature. Keep checking back as we explore all the changes in the Xbox 360's new look and feel.